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Protection for plant protection products

27 December, 00:00

Ukrainian agriculture suffers not only from a lack of plant protection products and the high costs of their production, but also from counterfeit products that have appeared on the market. A bill entitled “On Changes to Certain Laws of Ukraine to Prevent Counterfeit Plant Protection Products, Pesticides, and Agrochemicals” will soon be submitted to the Ukrainian parliament. Its author, Ivan Tomych, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Agrarian Policy and Land Relations, notes that the proposed changes relate to the most acute problems that are preventing the legal and economic development of the plant protection products market in Ukraine. Thus, for the first time the bill defines notions, such as counterfeit pesticides and agrochemicals, and envisages compulsory state control for detecting them in foodstuffs; fines for violations of plant protection laws have also been increased. Agricultural market operators hope that this bill will yield tangible results by 2006.

The bill is the result of efforts aimed at upgrading the legal framework regulating the plant protection controls market, as part of the one- year project funded by the European Community, called “Combating Counterfeit Plant Protection Products.” The goal of the project was to combat bogus plant production products on the Ukrainian agrarian market, which is very important to our country. According to project coordinator Dietrich Treis, 20 percent of these kinds of products are counterfeit. Considering that the overall output of the domestic market of plant protection products amounts to $160 million, notes Olena Fomina, head of the Chemical Committee of the European Business Association, it is not difficult to grasp the scope of this evil. However, the biggest threat is that by buying such chemical agents from iffy dealers, an agricultural producer saves a couple of hryvnias while placing his and his consumers’ health in jeopardy. Bogus plant protection products are never subjected to official verification and registration procedures. So it is safe to assume that these chemical preparations are well past their stale-dates, their content of active substances is lower, or, even worse, they contain hazardous substances. There is also Ukraine’s image to be considered. Dietrich Treis believes that Ukrainian grain could be exported to the European Union at higher prices once the current counterfeit risks are eradicated.

Ms. Fomina says the only way to protect yourself from bogus products is to purchase plant protection products only from licensed distributors. You should also demand to see the seller’s quality certificate: the shipment number indicated on it must correspond to the number on every package. Enterprises that sell such agents, whether corporate or individual, must be duly licensed.

Another important component of the project was an extensive information campaign, including producer-consumer roundtables explaining the risks and dangers involved in selling and purchasing counterfeit products. The mass media were also actively involved. Of course, there are no statistics indicating the campaign’s positive effect, but certain trends can already be detected. Yuri Shafrai, head of the administration of the State Service to Combat Economic Crime at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, says that only one criminal case involving the illegal use of counterfeit trademarks was launched in 2003, and last year there were four. This year 21 cases are being investigated. Natalia Korchakova, project manager with the European Commission, says that although this project will not be renewed, illegal plant protection products will continue being closely monitored. The European Commission is now launching a big project aimed at protecting intellectual property rights.

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